Titan may be just one of dozens of Saturn moons, but in any case, it is one of the most fascinating objects in the solar system. Astronomers usually call Titan a planetary moon, which is larger than Mercury and has a thick atmosphere like Earth and Venus. The environment is not friendly to human life, but scientists have still discovered many interesting organic compounds. In the latest analysis, researchers from NASA discovered an important, highly reactive organic molecule in Titan’s atmosphere. Its existence suggests that the moon can support the chemical processes that we usually associate with life.
A thick mist of organic nitrogen covers the surface of Titan, but what shocks scientists is how it changes under all clouds and looks like a planet. Titan is the only object in the solar system that has a permanent liquid on its surface except the earth. On Earth, the liquid is water, but the ocean on Titan is made up of liquid hydrocarbons. However, just because humans will not stay at home on Titan does not mean that the moon is completely uninhabitable.
The NASA team used the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) to probe the dark atmosphere of Titan to better understand its complex chemical composition. The researchers discovered a molecule called cyclopropenyl (C3H2). The research team said that this discovery may open new branches of chemistry for Titan, many of which are related to life. Cyclopropenyl is a cyclic or “closed ring” molecule similar to benzene. According to records, scientists have known that benzene exists on Titan since 2003. Cyclic molecules are an important part of organic chemistry and may even be a precursor to life.
Titan is not the only place where we found cyclopropenyl-it is also a common component of molecular clouds drifting in space. However, this is the first time it has been detected in the atmosphere. Molecules floating in space are too cold and too far apart to promote chemical reactions, but on Titan, cyclopropenyl groups can form molecules much like DNA nucleobases.
The more we know about Titan, the more fascinating its chemistry. The mixture of molecules we may be studying is different from the molecules that produce life on Earth. Unfortunately, it is difficult to learn Titan from such a remote place. NASA hopes to launch missions to Titan in the late 2020s to explore these issues in detail. According to current predictions, the dragonfly lander will reach Titan in 2034. The drone will use its instruments to detect scientifically valuable compounds on the moon and fly between multiple locations on the surface.